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Blackhead Extractors: Miracle Tool or Skincare No-No?

By Amalah

Amalah, thanks to you I have fallen in love with all things Philosophy and, awhile back, you gave me some awesome advice about how to deal with the dark circles under my eyes. Sure, my bank balance is a little lower but I’m much happier when I leave the house each morning so it all balances out, right?

The other day I was watching one of those make-over shows on TV and saw a doctor use a blemish extractor during a facial. It seemed simple enough — clear out all that blackhead gunk and have clearer skin — and I thought, “Hey, I have problems with blackheads on my nose and never have any luck with those Biore nose strips so maybe I’ll give an extractor a shot!” My skin is generally pretty clear (thank you Purity face wash!) but my nose always looks, I dunno, ruddy? Unclean? Dalmatian-esque? I was all set to buy one online but then I started Googling and people on message boards were all “blahblahblah my pores looked hugemongous after extracting” and that doesn’t sound so great either.

So what are your thoughts on blemish extractors, Amalah? Yay? Nay?

-Miranda

Big old NAY from me, especially at home. I’ve had extractions done during facials, and honestly think they are more trouble than they’re worth. Painful, tedious, and the results last for…oh, all of 24 hours or so. They’re like an invasive Biore strip — sure does sound like a brilliant idea, but the results are temporary and kind of disappointing.
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I do own an extractor (link to a different one here), however — I bought it ages ago, thinking that I’d be able to extend the results of a facial at home. And frankly, it messed my skin up terribly. Inferior tool? Bad technique? Possibly, but it definitely taught me the value of going easy on my quick-to-overcompensate-in-the-oil-department skin. Forcefully squeezing out gunk below the surface has all the benefits of popping zits — which is to say, not many. And done badly (i.e. at home), it will often make things worse. You can spread bacteria, injure skin cells, cause infection, etc. I’d say it’s a technique best left for the professionals.

I keep my extractor on hand in case of emergencies — like a really prominent or painful blackhead ever appears. I have no problems with going after the occasional problem pore now and then. But if I find myself getting extraction-happy, I usually wake up the next morning with red, angry skin and a full-on pimple.

I’ve actually gone to spas that make a big deal over NOT doing extractions, and I’ve listened to estheticians rail against the practice. I won’t stop someone from doing extractions during a facial if it’s part of the deal, but I don’t really enjoy them. I don’t think they make my pores look bigger, but that’s probably because an esthetician knows to seal up pores post-facial with a cold compress (something I’m guessing the message-board chatters neglected to do). But no matter what I do afterwards — masks, toners, creams or cleansers — my chin and nose revert back to their vaguely congested, default state within a day or two afterwards.

Maybe if I had the time and money to get a facial and an extraction done every week I’d be able to keep the results, but…no. That’s not happening. I like getting a facial about twice a year, and then I stick to my own gentle and non-pinching anti-blackhead routine: a gentle for-all-skin-types cleanser, an exfoliating moisturizer for congested skin, and a pore-minimizing foundation primer.

Published March 7, 2008. Last updated August 22, 2015.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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